Food52 has let go 21 employees across the company, accounting for 15% of staff. Additionally, the media company’s content team and part of its creative team have been moved to a 32-hour workweek, a spokesperson said.
The shortened workweek has effectively cut employees’ take-home pay by 20% due to the reduction in work hours, said a Food52 employee in an email. The employee was not impacted by the layoffs and asked to remain anonymous.
When asked about the cut to salaries, the Food52 spokesperson said employees will continue to receive full-time benefits and their pay rates will stay the same “but being moved to 32-hour workweeks naturally results in less pay.”
“We have annual salaries and leadership claims that the 20% reduction in pay is due to the one less day we are required to work. Though it’s unrealistic that existing employees will be able to only work 32 hours given how bare bones the teams are, most will likely be working more hours with significantly less pay and one less day a week to do it,” the employee said.
CEO Amanda Hesser declined to comment. When asked for an explanation behind the decision to let go nearly two dozen employees, the Food52 spokesperson said: “The budget cuts we made in April did not account for the changes in consumer spending that have happened since then, as well as other stark economic signals, like the prediction of a recession and the stock market decline.”
In an email sent to staff on Thursday and shared with Digiday, Hesser wrote: “Our industry — which benefited from consumer spending habits during the pandemic — is now confronting inflation, predictions of a recession, unprecedented supply chain issues, and lower consumer spending.”
When asked if severance packages were being offered, the spokesperson said “separation pay” was being given “based on employee tenure.” They declined to answer questions about how much employees were paid.
“We were all given contracts late [Thursday] night with no room for negotiation, expected to sign them by Monday without any info on what the severance packages would be if we decide not to sign our new contracts,” the Food52 employee said.
“I’ve heard from many employees that they are crushed, that their spirit is broken, that they have never had a salary this low ever in their careers,” the employee added. “Everyone is furious and devastated. Morale is very low.”
This reorganization was made “to ensure the long-term sustainability and profitability of our business in light of the current economic climate,” the Food52 spokesperson said.
The latest layoffs come after the food and home goods publisher and commerce site laid off 20 people in April in a company reorganization. At the time, a Food52 spokesperson said the company was cutting costs “to manage the margin and supply chain challenges caused by Covid.” Clearly, those cost cuts were not enough as supply chain challenges have persisted while inflation and interest rates have risen.
“It’s not exaggerating to say that these cuts have disastrous effects on people’s lives,” said the Food52 employee. Margaret Eby, editorial lead of food at Food52, also tweeted the news on Thursday evening.
Food52 makes money by selling products on its website, as well as from branded content. It’s a tough time to be in the commerce business for some publishers. Commerce revenue at BuzzFeed Inc. — which is driven by transactions made via editorial shopping recommendations — dipped by 27% year over year to $10.6 million in the first quarter of 2022, according to its latest earnings report.
On Friday afternoon, Food52’s spokesperson said: “We feel confident in our go-forward plan to sustain our team and our business and set us up well for when the economic pendulum swings back. For more than a decade, we’ve grown our business with a scrappy and determined spirit. Now more than ever, we’re embracing those roots and our mission to help people enjoy life’s most important pleasures: food, home, and connection to others.”
In December, Food52 announced it was buying the home decor company Schoolhouse for $48 million, thanks to a total funding round of $80 million raised by its majority stakeholder, private equity firm The Chernin Group. No one from Schoolhouse was laid off, the spokesperson said.
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